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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Towarnicki: City needs assistant manager

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Newly hired Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki is seeking to hire a full-time assistant to share his workload.

An assistant city manager is one of three new positions funded in the city’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that will begin July 1.

A city employee since 1982, Towarnicki was public works director/assistant city manager before he became interim city manager in early 2012 after the former city manager, Clarence Monday, took a job in Amherst County.

Since then, Towarnicki has been overseeing all day-to-day operations of the city in addition to managing public works projects.

After he was appointed as assistant city manager, he and Monday split oversight of city departments. Now, he basically is doing three jobs.

“A lot of things we have going on (in city government) ... require a considerable amount of attention,” Towarnicki said.

None of his responsibilities are unduly taxing, he said — it is the overall effect of having so much to oversee that makes his job stressful.

According to Towarnicki, a full-time assistant city manager also is needed because there may not be anyone in city government able to step into the role of interim city manager if he had to be out for an extended period.

Department heads in recent years have done double-duty as assistant city managers. Yet many department heads are reaching the point where they can retire due to their ages or many years of service, Towarnicki said.

Martinsville has not had a full-time assistant manager since Dewey Cashwell left about a decade ago. Cashwell left to become a city manager in Texas. He now is the Bristol, Va., city manager.

The assistant position was eliminated due to budget cuts, although department heads who did double-duty as assist manager were compensated for their extra work.

After Cashwell left, former city finance director Wade Bartlett began doing double-duty as assistant city manager. After Bartlett left for a job in Prince Edward County six years ago, Towarnicki took on the assistant manager’s responsibilities in addition to his public works duties.

Martinsville City Council has not yet started formally mulling the fiscal 2014 budget proposal, but Councilman Danny Turner already has suggested taking the assistant city manager’s position out of the spending plan.

“We can’t afford it,” considering the budget proposal is balanced with about $900,000 in reserve funds and includes increases in the city’s real estate tax rate and garbage collection fees, Turner said.

However, Towarnicki said he thinks there is enough work to warrant a full-time assistant manager.

Compensation for the position, including salary and the value of benefits, is budgeted at about $127,000. In comparison, Towarnicki’s compensation is about $155,250, including his annual salary of $115,000, he said.

Other new positions planned for the coming fiscal year are a budget analyst/assistant finance director and a mechanic for the city garage.

The finance department has dropped from six to four employees in the past several years, and remaining workers have had more work to do.

A recent audit revealed no irregularities in city finances. Yet an independent auditor determined that the finance department is understaffed compared to those in other cities of Martinsville’s size and its ability to efficiently perform its duties could be jeopardized if any other employees leave.

Linda Conover was the budget analyst before she was promoted to finance director in late 2011.

Because of budget constraints, Monday also worked as finance director, but he gave up the job because he found it combined with the city manager’s job too stressful.

Total compensation for the budget analyst/assistant finance director is set in the proposed budget at $84,286, Towarnicki said.

The mechanic job was cut in the past due to budget troubles. Towarnicki said it needs to be reinstated because of the garage’s heavy work load.

If it is not, some vehicle repairs will have to be done at private garages, and that could end up costing the city more than hiring a mechanic, he said.

Compensation for the mechanic’s position is set at $46,232, he said.

Turner said he thinks the mechanic probably is worth funding but he does not favor funding an additional finance department position.

If somebody in the finance department quits, the city can replace that person, he said.

Budget cuts have resulted in the elimination of 40 to 45 jobs in recent years, Towarnicki estimated.

So many jobs have been cut that “we’re at the point it’s affecting our efficiencies and performance,” he said.

Some departments are down to two people and if employees have to take time off from their jobs, work does not get done, he added.


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